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Blair started walking at a fast clip around the Lincoln Memorial as if there was not a second to lose. She did not bother following the road but cut diagonally across it since there were so few cars. “Why are there so many traffic circles in the middle of D.C.? They don’t make any sense,” Patrick grumbled from behind me. Traffic circles were the least of our problems, I thought to myself. If Patrick had seen or heard the Tenebraen, who seemed prepared and eager to hack us into little pieces, he would have been coiled up in a ball trying to hide behind the nearest bush. It was probably for the best he had no clue what was behind Friedlander Gate. The disturbing creatures were hard to shake from my mind, although I kept trying since dwelling on what was behind us left me unable to be as attentive to what was coming up next.
“Of course they make sense. This whole city was designed on L’Enfant’s grid pattern. Some streets run north south, some run east west, and then you have avenues that run diagonally across the grid. Where the avenues intersect with the streets is where we have traffic circles,” she said, gesturing at the directionals with her hand. “It’s perfectly logical. I mean, the city is cut into four quadrants, and they all radiate from the Capitol Building,” she explained and pointed at the Capitol Building through the trees. I noticed that Patrick did not follow her index finger to look at the white dome but only had eyes for Blair.
His undeniable admiration made Blair laugh nervously, and she sputtered, “Let’s just say I’m sort of a logistics geek. When my grandfather gave me this watch and showed me L’Enfant’s maps, he did not tell me much about them. I ended up reading everything I could find about L’Enfant on my own and that led to my interest in urban planning,” Blair said. I thought about the stacks of Blair’s books on maps on her desk in her room. She had compared them to my fascination with Pompeii. Yeah, I knew a lot of people were interested in Pompeii, but I doubted many could hear the voices of protest from the plaster mummies. It was almost as if they were frozen in time and wanted me to do something about it. My connection to those lost lives made me think I was destined to become an archeologist. I was hoping that career path might make the voices go away, except the only thing that solved that problem currently was more training with Mr. Parks.
We crossed Henry Bacon Drive and were surrounded by wide-open lawns that were unexpected for such a large and busy city. The Mall was the name of the park between the Lincoln Memorial and the United States Capitol, and it gave the monuments and museums surrounding them a green carpet of formality. Most of the buildings in Washington tended to have a sense of space and placement. Unlike New York, they went for depth instead of soaring height.
“I think that’s great that you are a logistics geek. I mean, I’m a computer geek,” Patrick confessed, as if this was a secret. I looked over at Reid, who had a quiet smile on his face as he listened to this revelation. Reid told me Patrick would spend hours writing code in his room instead of going out on weekends. That helped explain why Blair resorted to stakeouts of his house. Well, sort of explained it, I chuckled to myself, thinking not many girls were performing the elaborate night recognizance schemes Blair launched with her usual precision and preparedness. “Right now, I’m building a web of electronic data that will house all kinds of stuff. Sort of like an instant digital library that will connect computers all around the world,” Patrick said, a little too fast. He wasn’t boasting, but the words were spilling out of him as if they were held in captivity too long. Patrick fidgeted with his hat and then jammed both his hands into his pockets as if to try and contain himself. Being able to research anything just by typing it into a computer? It sounded more like a magical web than reality. I gave Blair a dubious glance — she didn’t like magic, fantasy or science fiction, and I wondered if she was going to shoot down Patrick’s digital dreams.
She pursed her lips and asked, “Does this have anything to do with that mention of a firewall back there?” Blair was sincerely interested, and Patrick appeared to skip in the air next to her. He quickly tried to pretend there was something he was trying to avoid on the sidewalk but it was not THAT dark out. “I’m curious, because for thousands of years, people built fortified walls for defense. If you were really serious about protecting your investment, you added a moat or ditch or other obstacle, and where possible, build on high ground. Does this sort of design also happen in technology?” Graciously, Blair grounded Patrick’s explosion of excitement with a legitimate question that turned his world wide web of invisible data into something with historical relevance.